21 July 2017

Holly Wouldn't

As I have grown up watching movies, it is a medium I have always loved.  But I sort of wonder how it correlates with actual life.  It is escape, but how much escape is it?  Are we escaping so much that we are losing track of fundamental existence?


I go through each day attacking goals.  I come up with goals, write them down and take days to get them done.  I have a family that brings me a lot of joy.  But I wonder why I am not having to fight off nazis.  Why don't I know anyone who is an absolute expert at something and so passionate about it that they are willing to die for it?  And what about the every day stories that always crop up?

I bring up the nazi example, because somehow movies typically end up going in that extreme direction.  National Socialism is something that happened in our world and it conveys a convenient ultimate evil.  

Movies are all about being so extreme.  It has to be that way because we don't have time to go into any philosophies.  We need something quick and dirty that most people will get right away.  Naziism.  Perfect.  It has the ultimate bad guy.  The ultimate, hate-filled philosophy.  The ultimate, recognizable symbol.  The ultimate, head in the sand approach.  The ultimate, obey orders or die.

I almost feel like it is a cop out to go that direction.  The writing team is together and they are wanting to come up with a bad guy.  They start out with something cool, but then the Hollywood types get involved.  Pretty soon, they want to simplify it.  They are all about taking out the stuff which makes people have to think.  They water it down.  They want the broader audience.

And I know.  You got two hours.  Basically, you have to decide what it is you want to really accomplish with this film.  Do you really want to spend the time with the main character as he learns how to check off his goals?  No.  We expect him to already be established.  We expect that his goals were already achieved and whatever the big, bold direction the movie is going in will be that goal.  

My current goal is getting the sprinklers adjusted and spraying in the right spot.  When I accomplish that, I am excited.  But how do you make a movie about that?  So I take this idea to Hollywood.  It's the feel good hit of the summer.  I was able to adjust my sprinklers and create green, lush grass.

So here I am in a dialogue with Hollywood:

Me: Here's my pitch.  I want to see a movie about a busy guy whose main goal is to finish things around the house.

Holly: So like a Mr Mom type movie?

Me: I guess so, but he would still have a job.  He has a family and kids.  His wife works too.  He just has a tough time getting his home projects done.

Holly: Then he is handicapped. In a wheelchair.

Me: No.  He is a normal guy who just doesn't know how to do stuff.

Holly: An illiterate city dweller, who comes to the country to farm the open land.  Like Northern Exposure.  Or Green Acres.

Me: Yeah, I guess that is kind of it.

Holly: So we'll have all these backwoods, idiot neighbors with lots of quirks that the audience laughs at.

Me: Can't the neighbors be the fairly normal ones?  It's the main character who is flawed because he has very little common sense.

Holly: Aha!  We have a character like Tom Hanks in the Money Pit where a series of prat falls and slapstick ensue in a Rube Goldberg type way throughout the house and yard.

Me: I guess so.  He does stupid things because he is learning.  But they don't all happen in a row or anything.

Holly: Well, we want to keep the audience invested in him.  If multiple things happen to him like he continually gets sprayed in the face over and over and over again, then that's comic gold.

Movie plots have to play out this way, because otherwise, why would anyone go see it?  And to me that is the unfortunate thing.  The embellishment always has to be there.  It can't just be accomplishing a goal.  The story is not about adjusting the sprinkler.  The story is all the elements which combined to try to prevent the protagonist from adjusting the sprinkler.  The nazis who moved in next door, the explosions going on across the street, the car race going on down the street, the liberal water rights group who think the water should be going to the indigenous hummingbird population.  It has to be huge because it is a movie.


16 April 2017

The Nerf Chronicles

I was really nervous.  I had trouble sleeping the night before.  I did not really know which direction I should go.  I started feeling angst.  I wondered why they put me in charge.



My son was having his birthday party and I was in charge of the Nerf gun war.

I have been in plenty of Nerf gun wars thanks to my Uncle.  It has traditionally been a gigantic melee where everyone is running around inside my parents' house shooting Nerf darts at each other.  I think my sister was the youngest at age 25 when this started.  My uncles, aunts and parents have all been involved in these wars.  It was not uncommon for another uncle to bring a date and this was her introduction to the family.  

And this started back when the Nerf guns were relatively new.  They had the suction cup ends to them and they didn't hurt that much.  It was not uncommon to have misfires and not a lot of power.  And the darts stick to my bald head.  Now the new types hurt.

But this was something new.  I was never in charge of the family one.  With my son's party, I didn't really know how to act.  Am I a referee? Am I supposed to yell at the kids to only shoot below the belt?  Or below the knees? Avoid the face?  No headshots?  All of these questions have an instinctive no to them, but with different kids, it is hard to be sure.

I asked my son what he thought the games should be like and he had this idea about having a timer bomb that they were trying to retrieve.  Three teams of three.  One is defending the bomb.  One is trying to get to the bomb. And the other team is trying to make sure the bomb goes off?  I never quite understood what the last team was supposed to do.

After my son told me this, I was thinking that this was way too complicated for a group of kids who just want to shoot each other with Nerf guns.  But later, I found out I was wrong.

My wife advertised that we would supply Nerf darts and goggles and Nerf guns if they needed them.  She said she would just get goggles at the Dollar Store.  And I am thinking Dollar Goggles?  I was concerned about that claim.  She texted me the day before suggesting a couple different types.  I said she should just get sunglasses.  She liked that idea, so she found some nice dollar wrap around sunglasses.  All they needed now were leather jackets and thick Austrian accents.

When the party got there, I was still sort of wondering how to go about it.  We opened presents and ate cupcakes first.  Most of the kids brought Nerf guns as presents.  I was busy repairing one of our Nerf guns while the kids started playing in the playground area. When I fixed it, I decided to go in with my Nerf gun and be a target for them.  I didn't want to upstage my son.  I wanted him to have fun, but I wanted the others to as well.  Being a common target, the old guy who has it coming, was a lesson I learned years ago from my father when the Kid Attack happened at a family reunion.

That worked out for a bit, but then we decided to split up into two teams and do my son's idea. I would do the timer bomb, the timer being my cell phone and a cupcake being the bomb.  We started that, but then the kids took off utilizing the whole school instead of just the fenced off playground.  It made no sense.  And it was a windy day. Now that I think about it, I guess I hijacked it.    

I suggested we bring it in to just the fenced off playground area and we have two teams each trying to get to the cupcake.  If you get shot by a Nerf dart, you have to respawn at your base.  This seemed like a pretty good idea.  The cupcake was at the top of a jungle gym tower sort of thing and each team would go for it.  After a couple rounds of this, it became apparent that the kids were ditching their Nerf guns in order to get the cupcake, which makes sense since a Nerf gun just slows you down.  And as long as they were fast enough to avoid getting hit, they could easily get the cupcake. I am amazed at how kids can be so clever and come up with new and different ways to win.

However, I had to step in again and say that each kid has to carry their Nerf gun. Otherwise, we are getting away from the Nerf war concept. (Kind of strange that a peaceful solution was not in my best interest here...)

Another kid showed up at this time so this allowed me to step off the field and let it just be the kids.  They played a couple more rounds of Get the Cupcake Bomb before they wanted a new game.  I suggested just the melee, but they wanted some really sophisticated stuff.  They had this whole role-play concept down.  They voted to do a Zombie type thing.  And if they are hit, then, like a zombie they have to slow down.  Slow down?  Are they supposed to groan also?  If they capture someone, do they start biting their legs and arms?  They wanted to use the whole school grounds and play with these really complicated sets of rules.  

I was impressed, but they lost me.  I was out of their league.  They were ready for headshots with Rick and the gang and I am still thinking: "Wouldn't you prefer a simple game of chess?" 

All in all, I feel that it was successful. I believe that leaving kids to play on their own is probably the best way.  I still brought in my input, which I think gave some more simple and basic game play.  My goal is for it to work best for the most kids possible.

I guess what sums it up best was a lady who saw me playing with them and asked if this was my son's party.  I said it was and she said: "Bless you." I probably gave her a funny look.   

09 February 2017

Ringers and Ward Ball Don't Mix

I played Ward Ball tonight.  I wasn't going to, but I really needed to get some exercise.  I figured if nothing else, I could run up and down the court along the side and act like I have never played the game before in my life.  Sadly, that wasn't too far off from what actually happened.



Now Ward Ball is done by neighborhood.  Whoever is in your neighborhood is who you get.  The only exception to this is if you bring a friend who is unaffiliated with any other Ward Ball teams.  Bringing in a Ringer can be really nice, but things can get pretty ugly pretty fast with someone with real skill.

Why is that?

To understand that, I need to delve back into a little history.  This is the kind of history which is studied in Cultural Anthropology.  Each man was once a boy and boys tend to have big dreams.  Believe it or not, those dreams never really go away.  This dream, among the hundred, is to be a major basketball star.  

Looking at the NBA today, the smallest guys on the team make up the largest guys on the team in Ward Ball.  This does not stop these "big men" from thinking that they really are 7 foot tall and can play at an extremely high level.  They think this...

The dream continues to be there, but life happens too.  Fast forward a few years and now you have a lot of pent up rage.  Family life, job stress, no exercise, eating too much.  All of this is bottled up inside the Ward Ball player.  He steps on the court and suddenly becomes a completely different human being.  It's time to re-live the glory days.  Only problem is, there are 9 other guys out there thinking the exact same thing.

Conflict is inevitable.

But generally speaking, most of the guys handle it pretty well.  There are the hotheads.  The team keeps an eye on them.  There are the elbow-throwers, cheap shots, dirty players, and it's weird because these guys are supposed to be these great, spiritual examples for others to emulate.  But Ward Ball just switches them on like they are sleeper cells.

When bringing a friend to play, it can be very enjoyable.  The competition is good enough to keep it fun and interesting.  However, when the friend is a Ringer, that is a problem.  There is a certain betrayal.  We have these neighborhoods with a bunch of short players.  Everyone knows each other from every other year.  Suddenly, someone brings in this 6'6" guy who is 280 lbs of complete muscle and can dunk it and is used to playing with the pros.

It's kind of like having a group of friends and you all end up marrying the girls from the town.  But then there is one guy in the group who has to go score a model from LA and it changes the dynamic.  What's that all about?  

It gets ugly when the Ringer shows up and all those guys with big dreams are now standing front and center with him.  They start hacking him, hitting hard, fouling.  He starts hacking back.  Pretty soon, fists are flying, people are yelling, cussing, spitting, red faces.  Should have stayed home and watched all that on The Bachelor.

There probably should be rules against Ringers.  But I suppose Ringers are people too.


06 November 2016

Keys: Check! Wallet: Check! Utility Belt: Uhhhhh...

The other day I was at a restaurant standing in line waiting to order.  It seems as though all the new style restaurants have people standing in line.  What?  Are we in Russia waiting to get toilet paper?  I know.  I know.  Russia is not like that anymore.  

While in these lines, I get a lot of time to think and people watch.  Granted, it is the same people over and over as the line zig zags its way toward the food.  So, unless the people are dressed in crossword puzzle attire, the people watching gets old pretty quick.

But something at this restaurant caught my eye.  Policemen were in line.  They did not have their guns drawn and they were not yelling for people to get down.  They were not flashing their badges in order to cut their way to the front.  They were just cops protecting and being served. Ha!

But then, there it was!  The Utility Belt.    


Whoa!  These guys walk around all day doing their job with Utility Belts on.  Suddenly, in my mind, I am wondering: Why don't I have a Utility Belt on?  I never have a Utility Belt on.  I don't have a Utility Belt at work.  I don't have a Utility Belt at play.  I don't sleep with a Utility Belt on.

And then depression started setting in.  What have I been doing with my life?  Here is my opportunity to be as Batman-ish as possible and I am wasting it by using what?  POCKETS????!!!

And it is not just Batman.  In Star Wars, Luke and Han dressed in the stormtrooper disguises and after the trash compactor, they kept the Utility Belts on.  They knew there would be some value with these fashionable white Utility Belts.

Looking at a cop's Utility Belt, he has everything!  A gun, a flashlight, a tazer, another gun, mace, something else that looks like a gun, handcuffs, a radio, a night stick, a baton, chewing gum, a knife, rope, a crescent wrench, a lighter, a spatula, a tire iron, and of course a light saber.

I wonder if there are special cop stores where they can go to pick up all these great accessories to go on their Utility Belts.  And looking at the Belt itself, those things look like they need somewhere nice to hang after a long day on the beat.  They couldn't just hang from a hook on the wall.  They would have to have special cop mannequins to hold the Utility Belt in place.

Now I am trying to think of how I can utilize a Utility Belt in my everyday life without looking like a freak.  There have been a few attempts throughout the years to get them on people.  Runners have belts which store water bottles and other items.  The problem there is they start resembling more of a fanny pack.  And a Utility Belt is not a fanny pack.  Can you imagine Batman stopping for a second while he digs around in this gigantic sack attached to his hip looking for a Bat poison dart?  We have just destroyed Batman with that image.

The attempt to attach the cell phone to a belt is a good start, but it does not go far enough.  How does that person start their day thinking that the only thing they need to attach to their belt is their phone?  How can this guy come to the rescue if all he is going to do is call someone?  At least if he showed up with a Swiss Army Knife attached to the other side he might look like he could help...


09 October 2016

Excuses. Excuses.

Wasn't it the greatest thing in the world when, as a kid, you discovered the ability to have an excuse?

+ You swung at the ball way over your head and struck out.
- I thought I only had one strike.

+ You are late to class.
- I didn't have any clean underwear.

+ Why didn't you clean your room?
- I lost track of time listening to DEVO.

I guess as an adult, we start to realize that all excuses are bad.  There is no good excuse.  We still try though.  At work, we can blame our co-workers.  At home, I can blame my children or my wife.  But excuses still always look bad.

Imagine the person out there who does not rely on excuses.  He/she takes the blame.  It was never anyone else's fault.  Can a person like this actually exist?

As I approach my life, I have to think about where I fall short.  

I may not be very good at doing the dishes.  What's my excuse?  I don't want to do them.  Not bad.  Simple.  Direct.  I take full responsibility.  There!

I spend too much time on my phone.  What's my excuse?  There are so many important things that could be happening on that phone.  I need to check my email for work, text messages for important items.  Everyone else is always on their phone.  To tell the truth, I think the problem here is that I have a nervous habit which involves obsessively not being bored.

I stay up too late at night.  My excuse is that I am a night owl.  TV keeps me up all night.  Sleep is never as important as watching one more episode of Grey's Anatomy....  But really, it is that I like staying up late and I like sleeping in.

We have excuses that we believe but we don't admit to them.  Often we blame our environment or our family for areas in which we fall short.  But we only do that in secret, because we could never truly blame them to their faces.  I think that is actually a bigger lie, but one which we hold to inside thinking that if the environment changes, then we will change.

When the minivan is gone, then I can be a real stud.
When the kids are grown, I can have my man cave back.
When I retire, then I can learn how to golf.
When the weather is nice, then I can mow the lawn.
When there is nothing on TV, then I will read.
When I live right next to work, then I will walk.

26 September 2016

The Conservation Reservation

I have a real dilemma when it comes to conservation.  On one hand, it is important to not waste.  Be green.  Reuse plastic items.  Recycle.  It is a very glorious cause, which helps all of us ritual-minded, OCD fanatics to feel good about ourselves despite all the people out there who just do not care at all.  

They continue to pollute and waste.  We continue to place the recyclable item in the proper plastic container.

They throw their soft drink container out the window of their car as they drive by.  We take sponge baths in the shower.

They dump their giant, flat screen tvs in the alley behind their house and go buy new, bigger ones.  We change the channel by turning the knob on the tv.

While we feel superior, I am a little concerned about the other hand. I think I am kind of gross.  

In my Star Wars lunch pail, I have about 10 sandwich bags which I refuse to throw out.  One bag for my sandwich (two slices of bread, with mustard mayo and meat.)  One bag for mixed nuts.  One bag for wheat thins.  One bag for pretzels.  One bag for chips.  One bag for animal crackers.  Yes.  I eat a lot of carbs.  One bag for grapes.  One bag for carrots.  One bag for lettuce.  I do have some healthy items too.  Is that ten yet?  It is a lot of bags.

I am torn here.  I want to help Mother Earth, but I also do not want to be like Uncle Elmo.  What makes this behavior okay in the rational world?

I also have an electric toothbrush where I am supposed to replace the head every 3 months.  Six months would be pushing it.  I think it has actually been 3 years.  What's my excuse?  We have replacements in the closet.  I clean it by hand every day.  I rinse it thoroughly, but what am I hoping to achieve?  Am I thinking that I will have halted the production of toothbrush heads by a month?  By a week?  By a day?  Okay.  Tonight I am replacing it.  The very thought of this is making me a little queasy.

Who have I become?

I have shirts that are 15 years old that I still wear, a truck which is 16 years old.  I have had the same disposable razor for 3 months.  I shop at thrift stores.  I horde cardboard.  I shave once a week.  I don't believe in anything new!

Wait!  I am Uncle Elmo.  How did this happen?  Like a nightmare I need to wake up out of.  I am Ebenezer Scrooge screaming in his bed:  "I want to live!  I want to live!  I want to fill the trash with more trash!  I want to empty my recycle bin into the regular trash!  I want to let the water run in the yard all night!  I want to let my kids draw on all the paper we have set aside for printing important documents.  I want to use styrofoam in place of all my dishes and then burn them in the backyard afterwards!

Then!  Then I will be happy!  Then I will be free!




18 September 2016

Not All Roommates Are Created Equal



We are going on seven weeks with the 4th roommate, Brindley, and it continues to be challenging.  What an obnoxious little snot she is.  She is constantly taking things from the other roommates.  She goes right in their rooms if the door is open and takes stuff into her room.  We try to talk to her about it, but it is so awkward.  The best thing I can do is quietly take it back so we don't cause a scene.

Oh, and I cannot stand her perfume.  I can hardly breathe if I get too close.  I try to be respectful, because everyone has their own scents that they like.  This one is fairly common.  I think it is called 9K9B.  It is really strong and we have to keep the fans going to keep the fresh air moving.

I should not be gossiping about her like this, but apparently she does not really know English anyway.  She seems to know the basics like Hello, Good Morning, and No.  It is like we have someone from another country staying with us and it is really strange to pick up on her odd behaviours.

She sets her alarm really early in the morning, but she does not work or anything.  She gets up and makes a lot of noise, wakes my wife and I up.  We hope the other roommates are not being woken up.  We try to talk to her about this, but with the language barrier, it is like we are talking to someone who looks at you and cocks her head.  That's uncomfortable.

But she pays her rent and does not really have any other family around.  I only wish I did not get so upset about all these incidents.  I should be doing more with my life than being concerned about a roommate who does not speak English, is kind of a klepto, and does not smell very good.  I have had roommates with those qualities before.  What did I do then?